Tennis video games in the past have tried and failed to accurately capture the atmospheric tension of an actual tennis match. The eerie silence as the crowd hushes during play adds to the real-life spectacle that is the sport of gentlemen. The ever-popular and accessible Virtua Tennis series has never wanted to be taken seriously like that, whilst the first three Top Spin titles perhaps tried a little too hard to be the realistic sim they could never be. Now added to the fold is Top Spin 4, the first tennis game to hit an ace. Its mixture of complex controls, depth and, most importantly, atmosphere, make it a thoroughly enjoyable tennis sim and one of the most realistic offerings for the sport on any gaming platform.
What Top Spin 4 Got Right
Great Presentation – The folks at 2K Czech have nailed the presentation and environments, making for a memorable and realistic tennis experience. Everything from the camera angles to the cutscenes and replays help recreate an actual television presentation, adding a sense of spectacle and worth to the experience, particularly in the career mode.
Intuitive Controls – The game does a good job of punishing you for button-mashing, with the AI taking advantage of repetitive match tactics. Each core function – flat, slice, lob and topspin – are mapped to the four face buttons, although your positioning of each shot is important. The bumpers act as modifiers for each shot, allowing you to mix things up and take advantage of your opponent as you see fit.
Top Spin Academy – Considering how steep the learning curve can be (Top Spin 4 is not an easy game by any means), the Top Spin Academy acts as a fantastic tutorial to the ins and outs of the gameplay, informing you where you’re going wrong and what tactics to use. It feels like an effective tutorial as opposed to one that seems tacked on just for the sake of it.
Deep Career Mode – The career mode in Top Spin 4 is not only challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Training through the core skills and working your way up to the majors and gland slams is quite the challenge, and playing against some of the sport’s greats is a fantastic reward for a mode that is lengthy and deep.
Player Roster – Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Andrew Agassi and Ivan Lendl. Forget about the present-day players. These are the only players you need to care about. And they’re all in the game.
What Top Spin 4 Got Wrong
Stadium Licensing – Whilst not a major issue by any means, the inability to play on Wimbledon is a letdown. All other major Opens are accurately represented, but the major one is a gapping omission.
The Final Verdict
Top Spin 4 is the best tennis sim yet. Its level of detail and depth must be applauded, fueled by a deep career mode, great control mechanics, an improved atmosphere and presentation as well as a fantastic list of past and present tennis greats.